We are awash in numbers. Numbers order our days, our work, and our leisure.
While 24, 7, and 365 might be three of the most prominent numbers in our lives, they are only some of the rather commonplace numbers that can crop up again and again, whether we notice them or not.
One I’ve noticed is 14. It’s the same number every second week—the number of apples I buy so that I have one a day for breakfast. Fourteen orders a comforting habit that I miss only under the most extreme circumstances—forgetting to shop, usually! Another set of familiar numbers: 1, 4, and 5. I became acquainted with these recently, during music lessons during the first summer of the pandemic. After ten (another important number in my life) years of piano lessons, I still felt bereft of skill because I could read music, but couldn’t sit down and play on the spot. But during that summer of lessons, I learned about 1, 4, and 5. One is the key of the music. Four and five are its related keys. Learning these three numbers unlocked a huge treasury of music for me. No longer do I feel limited to what a teacher long ago taught me—I feel liberated!
This week’s group of CatholicsRead titles focuses on both the ordinary and extraordinary things in life, with more than a few options for those of us who find numbers help order our lives.
Five might be a good place to start. Try Loyola Press’s 5 Things with Father Bill: Hope, Humor, and Help for the Soul, by Fr. William Byrne, a practical and engaging guide that features fifty topics to enhance your days with insights, reflections, and encouragement.
Or there is Ave Maria Press’ Habits of Freedom: 5 Ignatian Tools for Clearing Your Mind and Resting Daily in the Lord. Author Christopher S. Collins, SJ, offers five practical tools to help you develop a habit of daily discernment that will lead to inner calm.
You might also level-up to 15 with GIA Publications’ Fifteen Minute Retreats to Slow Down Your World by Joseph J. Juknialis. These 30 Scripture-based reflections require just 15 minutes—five minutes for scripture, five for reading the reflection, and five for prayerful contemplation—each day.
Or how about two? Loyola Press’s The Quiet Companion by Mary Purcell looks at one of Ignatius of Loyola’s two most trusted companions, Peter Faber. While the other, Francis Xavier, is widely known for his world travels and missionary zeal, Peter Faber worked quietly toward internal reform of the Church and became a pioneer of ecumenism.
Maybe you want to pick your number, and are seeking insights to help you create or support a habit of reflection and engagement with the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Busy Lives & Restless Souls, also from Loyola Press by author and Ignatian spiritual director Becky Eldredge, will help you find the “missing peace” in your life as she interprets principles of Ignatian spirituality in a fresh, accessible, and practical way.
Perhaps you need a new source for reflections on Scripture. Ave Maria Press’ Open Wide My Heart: A Journal of a Prayer Life by Macrina Wiederkehr includes reflections on Scripture that serve as guideposts as you begin or deepen your scripture study and offer gentle direction for your faith.
If the “Our Father” is part of your daily habit, be inspired by Ascension’s On Earth as It Is in Heaven: Restoring God’s Vision of Race and Discipleship, by Fr. Josh Johnson. Fr. Josh recounts his experiences as a Black Catholic growing up in Louisiana and his priestly calling to invite Catholics from every nation and tongue (Revelation 7:9-12) to the Eucharistic table.
If the lens of your daily life is stuck on “ordinary,” then try Ave Maria Press’ No Such Thing as Ordinary: A Personal Journey with the Woman at the Well. Author Rachel Balducci will help you discover the passion and adventure in your life while empowering you to see how God uses daily, here-and-now moments to draw you to him in an extraordinary way.
Or perhaps the wisdom of one of our contemporary singer-songwriters might flip that perspective. GIA Publications’ Where God Hides: A Journey of Divine Awakening by Liam Lawton explores how we can bring spiritual awakening and consolation into our lives in every circumstance.
You can count on one of these recommended resources this spring and summer.
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Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.